Rice is cultivated all over the world in fields known as rice paddies and it is one of the most maintenance intensive crops to grow. The rice paddy itself requires a large part of that maintenance. It is flooded with water that must be kept at a constant level, just below the height that would keep rice seedlings from growing but high enough to drown any weeds that would compete with the rice stalks for nutrients. This technique is called continuous flooding and a big part of the job of a rice farmer is to inspect the rice paddy every day to make sure the water levels are normal and there are no cracks or holes that could lead to water leakage.
This process is labor intensive, and the technology in use hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Most of the rice farmers in my area are elders with the approximate age of 65-70 years. For these hard working people a little bit of technology can make a big difference in their lives. This is the idea behind TechRice.
TechRice is a project that started as a collaboration between hackerfarm and Digital Garage in Japan. I was contacted by one of the heads of FutureLab, an internal R&D group inside Digital Garage and they were asking me about potentially interesting projects that could be done involving Internet of Things. I’m not particularly fond of the term “IoT” but there are many projects that could be done involving sensor networks that would be useful both in Japan and around the world.
We met up with Digital Garage at their main office in Ebisu to discuss some possible projects. I also ended up talking about hackerfarm, a hackerspace some friends and I set up in rural Japan to focus on agricultural technology and issues that affect the Japanese countryside. One project that came up was rice field monitoring using wireless sensor networks and it caught the attention of some of the members in FutureLab. That’s pretty much how the TechRice project started.Read more